The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 13, 2013

A second large sinkhole appears near Bethel Baptist Academy

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — For months now, students at Bethel Baptist Academy have been avoiding a large sinkhole near the edge of the parking lot next to Cleveland. As of Wednesday morning, they are avoiding two large sinkholes.

The first sinkhole opened up after both OG&E Electric Services and AT&T worked on equipment there. OG&E had to replace a large transmission pole struck by lightning in October.

John Little, spokesman for OG&E, said while replacing the pole, workers cut through an AT&T cable.

AT&T then came out and dug a trench to repair the damaged cable. That night, it rained and the first sinkhole appeared.

Wesley Byrd, pastor of Bethel Baptist and principal of the 14-student academy, said he called OG&E when the first sinkhole appeared. A repairman looked at the sinkhole and told Byrd they would notify AT&T of the problem.

“It’s where AT&T had been doing their work,” Little said.

Byrd said a repairman from AT&T came and looked at the first sinkhole. When Byrd stepped out to talk to the repairman, he recalls the repairman saying, “We’re on it.”

The AT&T repairman wrapped a wire between two OG&E poles. No one ever returned to do anything further, Byrd said.

On Wednesday morning, a second sinkhole gaped open about 25 feet south of the first one.

Each of the sinkholes is large enough to swallow an adult.

“Every time we have something and we have additional people here, I warn them,” Byrd said.

Charlie Price, spokesman for AT&T, said he was unaware of the problem until the News & Eagle phoned.

“Let me do some digging around on this,” Price said. “This is the first information I’ve heard on it. Let me make some phone calls and I’ll get back to you.”

Price later sent an email reading, “We have alerted the appropriate personnel so this situation can be resolved. We apologize for the delay and any concern that it caused.”

Jim McClain, director of public works for the city of Enid, looked at the sinkholes Wednesday.

“It looks like it’s both OG&E and AT&T’s problem, but I’ll try to get ahold of them,” McClain said. “If I can’t get ahold of them, I’ll have a couple truckloads of dirt brought over and we’ll fill in the holes, spread it out and level it — do what we need to do.”